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'Archive Man'

Stephen Poliakoff and the Archive

Elizabeth Robertson

The writer-director Stephen Poliakoff’s thematic concerns with history and memory have repeatedly returned to the archive as a site of discovery. Poliakoff’s use, and exploration, of archives in his work has coincided with a marked rise in mainstream cultural engagement with archives for personal use, as well as an archival turn in literary scholarship. This article explores the different types of archive and archival material found in Poliakoff’s dramas for stage and screen, mapping the topography of public and private archives in his work, in turn revealing the commentaries these dramas are making about how we create and use archives, and who and what they are for.

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Luke Brunning

Value monists and value pluralists disagree deeply. Pluralists want to explain why moral life feels frustrating; monists want clear action guidance. If pluralism is true, our actions may be unable to honour irredeemably clashing values. This possibility could prompt pessimism, but the ‘avoidance approach’ to pluralism holds that although values may conflict inherently, we can take pre-emptive action to avoid situations where they would conflict in practice, rather like a child pirouetting to avoid the cracks on a pavement. Sadly, this view is hostage to epistemic problems and unforeseen consequences and is liable to generate timidity. It rests on the intuition that honouring values in action is more important than doing so in other ways, but this is a premise we have reason to reconsider.

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Demetris Tillyris

Contra the prevalent way of thinking about the dirty-hands problem, this article suggests that dirty hands need not necessarily entail suffering and that a politician who does not suffer for his dirty-handed acts should not be cast as a bad politician. In so doing, the article: (i) argues that the connection between DH and suffering is unsatisfactorily totalising and rests on a contentious conception of conflict as a dysfunction and (ii) develops an alternative account of the good dirty-handed politician, which is associated with what proponents of the prevalent view of the problem find impossible: calm acceptance of – even indulgence in – one’s dirt. This recognition has important implications for our contemporary culture of contrition and for the way we evaluate the characters of our politicians.

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Bryan Loughrey and Graham Holderness

In this issue, Critical Survey continues to represent international scholarship and research, and to broaden the horizons of scholarship. Featuring authors from Britain, the United States, Australia, Jordan, the Sultanate of Oman and the Republic of Ireland, the issue ranges from early modern to contemporary literature and culture, from Shakespeare to the literature and drama of contemporary Ireland.

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A Hybrid New World... or Not?

Transformation versus Hybridisation in Early Modern World

Fatima Essadek

During the last three decades, early modern scholarship has drawn heavily on twentieth-century theorisation to analyse the socio-cultural conditions in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. An example of such scholarly endeavours is the attempt to appropriate the concept of hybridity to explain the constitution of cultural identity. This article re-evaluates this critical trend by reviewing the model of hybridity in relation to early modern cultures; it simultaneously proposes the existence of another cultural pattern that is here labelled ‘cultural transformation’. The article also contends that hybridisation is more manifest in the domain of material culture: the ethno-cultural characteristics of early modern communities made them more receptive towards accepting and integrating material objects but less welcoming towards assimilating beliefs, values or cultural practices from other nations.

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Christina Nick

This paper considers three arguments by David Shugarman and Maureen Ramsay for why dirty hands cannot be democratic. The first argues that it is contradictory, in principle, to use undemocratic means to pursue democratic ends. There is a conceptual connection between means and ends such that getting one’s hands dirty is incompatible with acting in accordance with democratic ends. The second claims that using dirty-handed means, in practice, will undermine democracy more than it promotes it and therefore cannot be justified. The final criticism states that politicians with dirty hands are a sign that politics is no longer meeting the criteria necessary to be called democratic. The paper shows that such rejections of democratic dirty hands are based on misunderstandings of the nature of dirty hands and democratic politics.

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David Hall

Climate action is conventionally framed in terms of overcoming epistemic and practical disagreement. An alternative view is to treat people’s understandings of climate change as fundamentally pluralistic and to conceive of climate action accordingly. This paper explores this latter perspective through a framework of philosophical psychology, in particular Bernard Williams’s distinction between internal and external reasons. This illuminates why the IPCC’s framework of ‘Reasons for Concern’ has an inefficacious relationship to people’s concerns and, hence, why additional reason giving is required. Accordingly, this paper recommends a model of truthful persuasion, which acknowledges the plurality of people’s motivations and sincerely strives to connect the facts of climate change to people’s subjective motivational sets.

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Jeffrey B. Griswold

This article complicates scholarship on Macbeth that understands political attachment in terms of an autonomous subject and attributes Macbeth’s demise to an over-susceptibility to natural or supernatural forces. By putting early modern accounts of the humoral constitution of the night air in conversation with modern theories of apostrophe, I argue that the Macbeths’ experiences of night theorise political action as inseparable from the nonhuman forces in the play. Shakespeare reworks his source material to explore the borders of the human, imagining a more complex relationship between treasonous violence and the darkness that enshrouds Scotland.

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Physical Responses to Trauma

Examining Behavioural Reactions in Brian Friel's <em>Give Me Your Answer, Do!</em> and Eimear McBride's <em>A Girl Is a Half-formed Thing</em>

Chu He

This article compares Brian Friel’s play Give Me Your Answer, Do! with Eimear McBride’s novel A Girl Is a Half-formed Thing to inquire into why the characters react to their traumas with seemingly aberrant behaviours. These two modern Irish works seem to suggest that the characters find a devious, physical way of self-preservation when combatting their extremely powerless state of traumatisation, which exposes our conflicting drives in the face of trauma: although trauma is mostly associated with death drive towards self-destruction, we cannot overlook its connection to life drive. By analysing these traumatised characters’ bodies as the very platform on which the symbiosis of the two opposing instincts is staged, this article explores trauma’s indelible impacts on the body and the body’s troubled resilience.

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Amanda Bonnick, Yousif M. Qasmiyeh, and Theophilus Kwek

High Seas, by Amanda Bonnick

My Life Is a Shadow of a Faraway Incident, by Fakhry Ratrout. Translated by Yousif M. Qasmiyeh and Theophilus Kwek